SUBSCRIBE NOW

Ask the Pharmacist: 5 factors that weaken your immune system

A mask offers external protection only

Suzy Cohen
Columnist
Masks offer external protection only. While important and useful, but the way we respond from a pathogen has more to do with our internal protection, as in our immune system.

Everyone talks about masks. I like them and wear them but that is external protection only. While important and useful, I will be totally honest with you about them. The way we respond from a pathogen has more to do with our internal protection, as in our immune system!

So ask yourself if it’s up to par. If it’s not, then you need to start fertilizing your garden of microflora (i.e. probiotics) and avoid or minimize anything that weakens your immune system. In no special order, here are the most common factors that suppress your immune system.

Alcohol

People think of this as good for the heart, but studies repeatedly show that free radical harm takes place in your liver and can lead to compromised liver enzymes as well as hepatotoxicity. If you can’t filter out and neutralize poisons and pathogens, your immune system is weaker.

Smoking

I can say everything here that I just said for alcohol. Additionally, smoking is known drug mugger of vitamin C which everyone knows helps reduce misery from the common cold and flu. If you smoke, you have lower levels of C and again, this weakens your ability to fight. Furthermore, smoking hurts your lungs and that is one target organ of COVID-19. 

Junk food

Need I say more than the word “junk?” If you’re eating junk food, your body is still starving for nutrients at a cellular level. You may very well be at a healthy weight and BMI; however, your cells are dying for more nutrition and that means your immune system is weak.

Medications

There are some immune-suppressing medications that people take for autoimmune conditions to slow down the self-directed attack at their own tissue.  For example, methotrexate, azathioprine, and etanercept are three that come to mind off the top of my head.

These are necessary, and I’m not saying to discontinue them, however you should be extra vigilant about exposure, masks, social distancing and so forth. Since you shouldn’t stop your medication, just be more careful. Another immune-suppressing category are the steroids such as inhalers for asthma and those used for allergies (prednisone, dexamethasone, hydrocortisone and so forth). Cyclosporine is another used frequently after organ transplants.

Infections

If you have the measles, HIV, Lyme disease, bartonella, candida, mold exposure or mononucleosis for example, these types of chronic infections weaken your immunity. Your body is already fighting in these cases and dealing with an imbalanced set of pro-inflammatory cytokines so another infection would be harder to deal with because your immune reserves are spent! Supporting your body by eating healthy foods and taking antioxidants is key to keeping your immune system strong.

So, as we approach the colder months, consider both internal and external methods for immune support! This way you give yourself the best odds. Dietary supplements that may help improve “internal” protection include vitamin D, E, C and zinc. The herbal antioxidants that do this include skullcap, resveratrol, green tea extract, ginger, blueberry and Andrographis. There are many others.

More:Ask the Pharmacist: Unusual signs of D deficiency

And:Ask the Pharmacist: 8 major drug muggers of iron

Also:Ask the Pharmacist: Ginger improves memory, reduces pain

Suzy Cohen is a registered pharmacist. The information presented here is not intended to treat, cure or diagnose any condition. Visit SuzyCohen.com.